1. Women were an integral part of the daily life, culture, and success of New Netherland.
2. Dutch women participated in colonial politics and trade.
3. Free and enslaved black women in New Netherland had to navigate a challenging and often unclear set of social mores and legal boundaries.
4. Native women played a proactive role in tribal responses to Dutch colonization.
Women in the Dutch Colonies, 1624–1715
The government of the Dutch Republic granted the Dutch West India Company a monopoly over all Dutch trade in the Americas in 1621.
This was the beginning of an organized Dutch effort to establish colonies and trading posts in North America, South America, and the Caribbean. These new colonies were to be part of the larger Dutch trading empire, which had trading posts throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia. The money made from global trade funded the outpouring of creativity and scientific discovery that characterized the Dutch Golden Age.
During this time of growth, the colony of New Netherland was born. Under the direct control of the Dutch West India Company, the New Netherland territory covered most of present day New York State, as well as parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware. From its foundation in 1624 to its surrender to the English in 1664, the business of New Netherland was business. Traders in New Netherland exchanged European goods for beaver fur with local Native people. Traders also bought and sold other natural resources that could be used in other parts of the empire. The Atlantic slave trade was central to the economy and development of the colony.
Women were an integral part of the daily life and success of New Netherland. They served as translators between the Dutch government and the local Native tribes, and acted as liaisons during negotiations with enemy forces. Women were at the center of the colony’s struggle to define the terms of slavery and freedom for the black colonials who lived in the territory. Dutch women actively participated in the bustling trade in the colony, while Native women manipulated imperial power structures to ensure their own survival. And all women in New Netherland contributed to the survival of the colony while still carrying out the responsibilities of home and child care.